Selma: Injustice and Juxtaposition

A reflection on Selma, the movie

selma
Source: npr.com

The movie “Selma” does an excellent job of portraying juxtaposition and injustice. For example, the first scene of the movie shows Dr. King receiving the Noble Peace Prize and is followed up with the explosion of a church. The contrast between peace and violence is leading the viewer to feel the juxtaposition and the unjust treatment of African Americans.

Furthermore, “Selma” uses distinct camera angles or techniques to emphasize brutal moments. A bird’s eye view angle is taken before the African American girls at a church are killed by an explosion. A close-up can be noticed when a woman gets beaten up by law enforcement during a peaceful sit-in. Slow-motion is used when a man is shot by a state trooper and mass violence erupts at the first attempt to march from Montgomery to Selma.

Violent moments are given special camera direction, which highlights injustice and draws out that moment in time.

As for the protagonist, the movie gives off the impression that Dr. King is peaceful and smart. The civil rights leader’s foremost weapon is public speech. He uses it to pursue his goal towards equality in a nonviolent fashion. Dr. King’s voice is succinct, convicting, and deep which makes him stand out from the rest of the civil rights group.

Particular action and word choices by King also allude to his pursuit of peace. After a man is killed by a law enforcer, Dr. King personally speaks with his family and sees the body in the morgue. He also turns away from the second march to Selma because he did not want to see any more people die. As he speaks with his wife, he says “I wonder how many we must loose”. The protagonist of the film values life and abhors unnecessary death.

King’s compassion is also matched by his wit. Public relations, negotiation, and legal rights are the main tactics that he uses to forward the civil rights movement. He understands that he must appeal to the “white consciousness” to see actual change in society.

The consequences of the film are dire: further brutality or death. The audience should surely root for King’s civil rights movement after seeing a deeper perspective into Dr. King’s self-sacrifice and the injustice shown across the African American community.

However, the protagonist’s goal is continually barred by bureaucracy, racism, and internal conflict that takes place within the civil rights movement. By the end of the movie, President Johnson does ultimately pass a voting rights bill that eliminates restrictions against allowing African Americans to vote. Victory!

Fittingly the film starts and ends with a speech, which not only demonstrates King’s self-revelation but further supports his promotion towards nonviolent protests that reflects his character and the legacy he left behind.

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